Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

Twenty-two years ago, men, women, and children in Guatemala's highlands were brutally massacred in a state-sponsored genocide during the country's decades-long civil war. Today, communities have finally been able to take legal action and declare the existence and location of clandestine cemeteries - the first step toward having the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG) exhume a mass grave.

USAID sponsored six women leaders to represent Guatemala at the Global Summit for Women in Mexico City in June 2005. After returning, they requested a meeting with First Lady Wendy de Berger to report on the summit’s objectives for economic and social development in poor, rural communities. The initial meeting was scheduled for a brief 30 minutes, but the discussion was so engaging that it continued for an hour and a half.

“I see this alliance as an advantage because the young people in Guatemala are very diverse and at the same time very similar. Young people react to common languages such as music, emotions, risks and fashion and they also suffer the same problems such as poverty, deficient health, a low level of education, disintegration and domestic violence,” said Gladys Chinchilla of Tan Uxil, an organization that is member of a USAID-supported alliance on reproductive health.

Over the radio comes the question: “Is it true that boys must have sexual relations in order to develop physically into manhood?” Immediately, a listener calls in and says, “Yes.”

The two-hour radio program, designed to share information to correct such misconceptions on health and family planning issues among rural youth through music, games, and discussion, is an initiative of the Tan Uxil association.

The 40-year civil war in Guatemala destroyed the country’s social capital and contributed to highest poverty in the hemisphere. Despite this, economic opportunity exists in the form of trade expansion both within the region and with the United States and Mexico. Entrepreneurs in Guatemala are stepping up to advance and modernize competitiveness in the marketplace.

At Tech Museum Awards' November 2004 black-tie gala, USAID's Andy Lieberman won the Microsoft Education Award and $50,000 in recognition of his use of technology to solve global challenges and improve the lives of people around the world.

Until recently, access to educational technology was nothing more than a dream for children of rural local communities in Guatemala’s highlands. USAID helped fund the installation of sixteen mini-technology centers called CETEBITOS which are equipped with 8-10 multimedia computers, a printer, Microsoft office software, as well as locally-developed multimedia software to help students develop reading and writing skills in their native languages of K’iche’, Sakapulteko, and Ixil.

For many years, Omar was known as “The Devil.” Like many youth in his neighborhood, he was the member of a gang. More lucky than some of his childhood friends who are now dead, Omar managed to leave the gang and join a USAID-sponsored program for youth at risk.

Through her work, trained therapist Vilma Dinora Morales learned that violence against women in Villa Nueva (a Guatemala City suburb) was a serious problem that received little attention and often went unpunished. Community leaders and justice center professionals wanted to help women access justice, but did not know how.

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Last updated: August 12, 2013